Armagh on the brink of return to top-flight football

Armagh’s Kelly Mallon takes possession ahead of Sarah Ann Fitzgerald of Laois during Sunday’s clash between the sides Picture by John Merry
Armagh’s Kelly Mallon takes possession ahead of Sarah Ann Fitzgerald of Laois during Sunday’s clash between the sides Picture by John Merry Armagh’s Kelly Mallon takes possession ahead of Sarah Ann Fitzgerald of Laois during Sunday’s clash between the sides Picture by John Merry



Armagh 0-10 Laois 0-5

ARMAGH’S Aimee Mackin says she was not surprised at the tough test her side were given by Laois in last weekend’s Division Two contest.

Both sides have their eye on a top-two finish and a place in the league final and currently Armagh are out in front with a full haul of 15 points from their five games.

The 0-10 to 0-5 defeat for Laois has dented their hopes of finishing in those qualification slots, with Tipperary separating the sides.

The Orchard county need just a point from their final two games – against Westmeath and Tipperary – to secure a final spot for the second successive year.

“It was a very tough game, but we knew it would be after the year they had last year and from how they have started this year’s league,” she said.

“The way they set up makes it difficult to play against but I think we managed the game well and got over the line. Each game we learn a bit more about ourselves so we will take more learnings from that game and try to improve again.”

Armagh hit the ground running with points from Eve Lavery (2), Catherine Marley and Aimee Mackin but they failed to add to their tally for the remainder of the half.

However, Laois, last year’s All-Ireland intermediate champions, also struggled to find scores and had only two Mo Nerney points to show at half-time.

Sarah Anne Fitzgerald made it a one-point game two minutes into the second half, but Maeve Lennon and Mackin raised white flags to push their lead out to three.

The home side then lost Mackin to the sin-bin in the 41st minute but Laois were unable to take advantage and instead Armagh added to the scoreboard through Grace Ferguson and Lavery to move 0-8 to 0-3 ahead.

Laois did have chances but were unable to take them. Erone Fitzgerald got their first score in 25 minutes and she added another four minutes later, but Mackin grabbed another two to steer Armagh to victory.

Armagh could not have wished for a better start under Shane McCormack and Mackin recognises that but she is conscious too that there is still a long way to go and they still need to qualify for the final.

“It’s a great start for us and we are pleased with how it’s gone so far. But we aren’t naive, and we know there are things that we need to improve on and that’s what we will do, sit down and review it. But it’s a good foundation for us going into the next game.

“The aim is to get to a league final but we aren’t looking any further than our next game which is Westmeath and another tough test but one we are looking forward to. We will just keep taking one game at a time.”

Cavan 2-9 Roscommon 2-8

CAVAN had to dig deep to see off a fighting Roscommon by the narrowest of margins.

The Breffni county have no relegation worries and are still mathematically in with a chance of a top-two finish.

Roscommon came into the game needing a win as they languish at the bottom of the table and they very nearly got one but two late points, one from a Lauren McVeety free and the other from an Aisling Gilsenan free meant they left Kingspan Breffni with nothing.

Tipperary 1-11 Monaghan 1-7

MONAGHAN’S future in Division Two continues to look uncertain after another defeat to Kieran Kearns’ side, this time to Tipperary at the weekend.

For 50 minutes, the Farney were equal to their opposition but Clara English’s 50th-minute goal provided decisive and as the home side tired, Tipperary finished strong to run out 1-11 to 0-7 winners.

Monaghan remain second from bottom on three points with Roscommon still propping up the table and the game between the two next weekend will prove decisive.

Tyrone 2-13 Westmeath 1-12

TYRONE captain Aoibhinn McHugh says the team’s response to their recent defeat to Armagh was exactly what they were looking for as the Red Hands saw off Westmeath by 2-13 to 1-12.

Sean O’Kane’s side picked up three crucial points to move them further away from the bottom of the table and ease relegation worries.

They now sit three points ahead of Monaghan and six clear of Roscommon, who are bottom.

“Definitely, it was a much-needed win. It’s a tight division at the top and bottom and every point we can pick up is vital,” she said.

“It was important for us as a squad that we focused on putting in a good performance and positive response after the Armagh game.”

Despite hitting the first score of the game through a Niamh Hughes point, Tyrone fell behind by five points in the first half, 0-7 to 0-2, but 1-2 in the space of two minutes had them level by the 24th minute, the impressive Aoife McGahan sparking the comeback, followed by a goal and point from Chloe McCaffrey.

They led by a point at the break, 1-8 to 1-7, with Slaine McCarroll, Aoife Horisk, McGahon and Emma Hegarty all on target.

A Horisk goal in the second half gave Tyrone a five-point cushion but Westmeath, led by Aoife Connolly, were pushing them all the way. However, McGahan, who finished with six points, helped bring Tyrone over the line.

There are still two games left to play – against Tipperary and Cavan – over the next few weeks with McHugh hoping they can pick up some more points.

“There are still two games left to play so we will just take it one game at a time. We will aim to give good performances and hopefully the results will follow,” she added.

Division Three round five: Clare 0-6 Down 0-4

DOWN’S chances of a Division Three final place took a hit with a low-scoring loss to Clare in Ennis, but manager Peter Lynch says they still have a fighting chance.

In the proverbial game of two halves dictated by a strong wind, Clare dominated the first and led 0-5 to no score at the break, while Down dominated the second, hitting four to get back to within a point, but a late point from the home side, their only score of the half, was enough.

Down had a goalscoring chance at the start of the second half but Clare goalkeeper Amy Lenihan denied them with a super save.

“There was a strong wind which obviously effected both teams, but in the end we felt that we had enough possession to get a better outcome, but just didn’t convert that into scores,” said Lynch.

“It’s always disappointing to lose, but the players put in a huge effort and that has to be commended also.”

The result leaves Down with nine points after five games, level with Clare, but three behind Kildare, Wexford and Louth, who are all on 12 points at the top.

The Mourne county’s final two games are against Offaly and Louth. There are a lot of ifs and buts, but Down still have a chance and that is what Lynch has always wanted and it’s a lot better focussing on the top of the table than the bottom.

“It doesn’t mean a league final appearance is gone,” he said.

“We have looked at the permutations and it’s still very possible, although perhaps not entirely in our own hands now.

“Our aim has always been to be in contention on the final day and that hasn’t changed. As always, we will try to improve our performance on the next day.”


Round five: Cork 5-11 Donegal 0-1; Dublin 2-11 Mayo 2-7; Galway 0-10 Waterford 0-5; Kerry 1-18 Meath 0-9

Round six: Friday, March 17 Donegal v Dublin (O’Donnell Park, 2pm); Cork v Kerry (Pairc Ui Rinn, 4pm); Sunday, March 19 (2pm) Meath v Waterford Pairc Tailteann); Mayo v Galway (TBC)


Round five: Armagh 0-10 Laois 0-5; Cavan 2-9 Roscommon 2-8; Tipperary 1-11 Monaghan 0-7; Tyrone 2-13 Westmeath 1-12

Round six: Sunday, March 19 (2pm, venues TBC) Tipperary v Tyrone; Laois v Cavan; Monaghan

v Roscommon; Armagh v Westmeath


Round five: Clare 0-6 Down 0-4; Kildare 3-17 Offaly 2-6; Sligo 0-20 Longford 2-9; Wexford 2-6 Louth 1-5

Round six: Sunday, March 19 (2pm, venues TBC) Wexford v Longford; Sligo v Kildare; Down v Offaly; Clare v Louth